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How Realism Piledrives Fun in WWE Games

/ Nov 17th, 2017 No Comments

Realism Wrestling Games

While opinions may vary on the current quality of professional wrestling, it’s undeniable that such a venue for sports entertainment can produce high quality video games. In fact, on the surface, wrestling games appear to be getting better with new technology.

Take the latest pro wrestling game, WWE 2K18, for instance. It’s one of the most visually impressive pro wrestling games to date. Matches are near perfect simulations of real-life WWE events. It even boasts one of the most expansive set of customization options, enabling you to create arenas, wrestlers and moves. At first glance, it’s quite a package.

But you shouldn’t judge a game by such flashy features. WWE 2K18 showcases clunky, stiff and problematic gameplay. The biggest problem is that this issue isn’t new in officially licensed WWE games.

The Problem with WWE 2K18

Nearly every gameplay mechanic in WWE 2K18 is a game in itself. From delivering strikes to grabbing a hanging title belt in a ladder match, practically everything is a lesson in frustration and tedium.

Such problems owe to a continuing overemphasis on realism. The end result is complex gameplay mechanics, slow pacing and other limitations that ultimately inhibit the overall experience.

WWE 2K18 may look good and have a terrific roster, but don’t let those easily sway you.

Wrestling games weren’t always like this. Titles like Pro Wrestling for the Nintendo Entertainment System established a formula that favored fast-paced entertainment over realism. This formula has graced notable titles such as Saturday Night Slam Masters, WCW/nWo Revenge and the Fire Pro Wrestling franchise.

Playing a game that utilizes this formula is a radically different experience than realistic titles like WWE 2K18. Play an older WWE game like WWF Smackdown! 2 or WWF No Mercy and you’ll notice that the control schemes are far simpler, gameplay is faster paced, physics are less of an inhibition and there are no complex mechanisms to worry about. The lax realism also permits all manner of freedoms that would otherwise not be possible, or at least would be watered down, in a pro wrestling game striving for realism.

These older wrestling titles still hold up today as definitive pro wrestling games. Their focus on entertainment rather than realism makes them accurate virtual representations of what professional wrestling is all about: having fun.

So why aren’t they the norm anymore? The answer to that is both technology and the greater ability to mimic reality that comes with it.

The Realist Movement in Wrestling Games

Video game development has become so advanced that sports games can now be turned into life-like simulations of actual sporting events. Just like it has for football, basketball and soccer, realism has become the name of the game when it comes to WWE titles.

The trend of increasingly realistic pro wrestling titles was ironically started by a company known for innovating pro wrestling games: Yuke’s. The company also happens to be the developer of current WWE games. The Japan-based developer continued to use its simple, fast-paced formula for wrestling games when it developed WWF Smackdown! in 2000, and the game received great critical success.

At 16-years old, WWF No Mercy is still considered the definitive pro wrestling game.

For approximately five years, this game engine was the backbone of its fast-paced, challenging, yet simple to play pro wrestling titles. However, Yuke’s made the decision to take a more realistic direction beginning in 2005. WWE Smackdown! vs. Raw 2006 employed a brand new engine.

There were some attempts to go back to the simplistic, fast-paced style, such as the 2011 spin-off title WWE All Stars. The game utilized traditional fast-paced gameplay elements and a terrifically over-exaggerated style that perfectly embodied the spirit of pro wrestling. Despite critical praise, WWE All Stars did little to offset the overabundance of realism that’s become the norm in pro wrestling titles.

WWE All Stars forewent realism in favor of an over-the-top experience to critical praise.

Such an embrace of realism and the complexities that come with it seem to be never ending to the point that it’s now rare to see a pro wrestling game aiming to be approachable to players. It’s now something of a requirement that gamers deal with complex systems and control schemes in throwing around virtual opponents.

Bucking the Trend

Thankfully, older pro wrestling titles enjoy large followings even to this day. WWF No Mercy, which celebrates its 16th anniversary on Nov. 17, is considered by many to be the best pro wrestling game ever. Due to its reputation, there is an active modding scene that has created updated rosters, enhanced graphics and improved mechanics.

Developers are also creating alternative wrestling titles that follow a more traditional format. After a critically panned attempt to divert the series away from its roots in 2012, Spike Chunsoft, the current owner of the Fire Pro Wrestling franchise, developed a unique, strategy-based take on wrestling in the form of Fire Pro Wrestling World, which released in June.

Unfortunately, Fire Pro Wrestling World is more of an exception to the norm rather than a trend in wrestling gaming. Heavy realism will continue to dominate wrestling games, but it undermines the quality of the titles being developed. Professional wrestling is called sports entertainment for a reason. It’s time to stop focusing on the sports part and start focusing on the entertainment aspect instead.


Jonathan Anson

Jonathan Anson

Jonathan has been a lover of video games since his father brought home a Windows 95 computer. When he's not doing that he indulges in his other passion: writing. Jonathan holds an AA degree in Journalism from Saddleback College in Southern California.
Jonathan Anson
Jonathan Anson

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